Trust me. There's a reason I've posted the video above of a man speaking Italian. I'll get there in a second.
But, before we get there.... Ever since the Rocketboom crew helped John Edwards launch his presidential candidacy, there has been an onslaught of attention paid to what the candidates are doing with their Web sites, social media tools, and, above all, online video.
There has even been, at least, two significant blogs launched to track how candidates are interacting with the Web community and vice versa. One is the comprehensive techPresident. It provides a daily overview of news, opinion on use of tech by the candidates and measurements like who has the most MySpace friends (it's Obama).
The other site is run by the indefatigable Jeff Jarvis and focuses on online video. Called PrezVid, the site is a platform for opinion on what candidates are doing right or wrong with Internet video and how others are using video to insert themselves into the campaign conversation.
This is great. And, it's a welcome step-up from the surprisingly weak use of the Web and online video during the Congressional mid-terms.
BUT, in reading all the buzz on the YouTube President, I was struck that we're paying a ton of attention to the Web's role in the over-produced, consultant-laden and institutionally artificial presidential campaign process and relatively little on how policymakers are and should be using the same Web tools to help govern and communicate to current constituents. For example here's Hilary Clinton's presidential campaign video page, and here is her "multimedia" Senate page (scroll down on the right). Then compare the John McCain Senate site and the bling he has at his presidential campaign one.
This gets us back to the gentleman in the video above....
He is Antonio Di Pietro, a longtime anti-corruption prosecutor, former Member of the European Parliament and current Italian Minister of Infrastructures. And, according to his Wikipedia entry, he might be the acting minister of government to have a regular vlog.
More remarkable, is that he speaks like a human having a conversation with another human in his videos and not like he's reading talking points from cue cards. Fortunately, for the non-Italian speakers in the house, he also posts transcripts of his vlogs in English at his Web site. Here's an excerpt from the video posted at the top of this post....
The Finance Law allows for the abolition of consultants and the ceiling for the salaries of the State Directors who were getting enormous salaries. And we have done well. But yesterday it occurred to someone to modify the Finance law to bring back consultants and to increase the top limit for the salaries of the Directors. I couldn’t believe it. I must say that there was general negative feeling because the Finance law needs two modifications to make it more presentable that is the reform of the health “tickets” and the intervention on minimum pensions.
We decided, just about unanimously, to postpone the discussion of these topics too. We must first take measures to help the weakest and then if there are still resources, to help others. As I said, instead we took decisions of ordinary administration, and because of this the newspapers will give you an account.
What I have told you is however different information, behind the scenes.
While not earth-shaking stuff, it's nice to read something candid and open about the process behind the scenes in government. Just imagine if a small percentage of congressional members did the same. What would they say? How would the transparency open and/or change the lawmaking process?
Sure, it's a step-forward that Speaker Pelosi has a blog and posts videos of C-Span speeches at YouTube that support the prevailing Democratic winds. However, would you rather this empty chamber floor speech on Iraq or hear the congressman's heartfelt, unscripted perspectives? My guess is that it would be the latter. After all, despite the Pelosi plug of the speech, as of this writing, it had exactly 12 YouTube views. Di Pietro's video views are in the thousands.
And, if policymaking is too boring to focus on, let's at least ride the growing wave of Web media in the political campaign process and not try to force old-processes into new mediums of communications. That is, while there is nothing wrong with posting speeches and thirty second ads, they don't add much to the conversation and a step in the direction toward a more involved and engaged constituency.
Looking back, last May we wrote:
Some smart consultant(s) will figure out that posting 30-second made-for-TV ads of a well-coiffed candidate hugging his kids is kind of lame and start utilizing the immediacy of the Internet. How? By using YouTube video to provide instant responses to opponent's charges; by creating a daily vlog that allows the candidate to set the agenda for the day; and, by capturing and posting all the good thing that folks from key constituency groups said that day. Conversely, you could also video your opponent's missteps and fun shots of costumed protesters and get them up and across the Web ASAP. Bottom line, instead of totally relying on your media consultants super-charged, expensive TV ads that touched the focus group just right, you can get a few ads out a day.
Unfortunately, the "film your opponents missteps" suggestion seems to be really the only "new" way of doing thing that has really stuck thus far. (And, we posted this three months before the Macaca incident.)
We hope that the fear of making mistakes is trumped by the interest to let us in on the hard work and realities that are faced by those leading or wanting to lead our nation.
UPDATE: Micah Sifry of techPresident and Personal Democracy was kind enough to mention via email that candidates and policymakers could also do a lot to learn from Web efforts by the UK Conservative Party head, David Cameron. And, they sure aren't hurting him, either. The International Herard Tribune reports that the Conservatives have opened a 13-point lead on the Labour Party.